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Catching More Hofmann Fakes (Part 9 of 13)

The Salamander Letter wasn’t the only forgery caught by Brent.  He will describe a few other forgeries of Mark that he caught, including one with Abraham Lincoln’s signature.  Mark wasn’t happy about being caught!

Brent:  There was another time that I was in Deseret Book Rare Books with Curt Bench. Curt showed me this rare Lincoln debate book. Abraham Lincoln published only one book in his lifetime. He did it on his own and that was The Lincoln/Douglas debates.  He published them in 1858. He lost those debates. He probably won that debate, but he lost the debates because he lost the election to Douglas, and just had to run for president two years later.  He printed up his debates, because a lot of people wanted to read them, they thought they were excellent on the slavery issues and the states and territories that it [slavery] could be allowed to move in to and so on. They were brilliant. They’ve been studied ever since. There were about 17 or 18 copies of it, that Lincoln inscribed to close friends, and half of those inscriptions are in pencil. Now, remember, I told you about Hofmann and pencil, which I think is an important distinction that’s been missed by a lot of people.

GT:  It really is [important.]

Brent:  I think it’s an important thing. I’ve got a lot of those pencil ones, as well as ink ones.  But none of the pencils [forgeries] were ever charged because there’s no test for pencil as such, just comparisons. I was with Curt and Curt shows me this original.  The book was fine. Hofmann had no respect for history. It was a first edition or whatever of Lincoln’s Douglas debate. 1860 is when they were published during the presidential campaign.  He published the 1858 debates. So, I’m looking at the handwriting.  It’s inscribed by Abraham Lincoln. If there’s anybody’s handwriting that I really know very well, it’s Lincoln’s. So I’m looking at this, and it’s not Lincoln’s. I mean, it’s not even close in a lot of ways. I told Curt, “Well, this is a phony.  Somebody has tried to try to sell this to you as a Lincoln and it’s not.  It’s fake. I went up to Hofmann’s the following Wednesday morning. That’s one of the times he really hit the fan. “How dare you tell Curt Bench that that’s a fake?  It came from….”  I said, “Mark I didn’t know that came from you.”

GT:  Oh, really?

Brent:  Yeah, because Curt never mentioned his source to me. But I knew then where it had come from.

GT:  So you caught him a few times on these forgeries.

Brent:  Well, I did. I should have been a little smarter, shouldn’t I?  I bought half of them, so I’m not that smart. The point was, I’m not bragging. I’m just saying that I told Curt this is fake. Don’t buy it. Hofmann was really angry at me.  That was one of the four times he was angry at me. He laid into me up at his house on Marie Avenue about that. “How dare you tell Curt Bench?  That hurts my reputation.”  He went on and on.  I said, “Well, it’s fake, Mark. I don’t know who you got it from.” That’s what I said. I had no idea he was a forger. I was still buying stuff. But, whoever you got it from, you’d better return it because it’s a fake.” He said, “How do you know it’s a fake?”  I said, “Well, for one thing, Lincoln’s signature goes up. The A, as always lower than the N. Sometimes, it’s really [hard to see.] You have to look at it, because it’s very close in every case, and sometimes Lincoln’s signature gets a little sloppy. But that’s just a trait Lincoln had throughout his handwriting. The N of his signature is higher than the A.”  So, I’m teaching the forger where he went wrong, on Lincoln.  But, he let me have it that he was going to take it back to whoever he got it from.  It’s kind of hilarious. None of those were mentioned in the Hofmann case, because they were in pencil, and that’s one of them.

Check out our conversation….

Brent Ashworth caught Hofmann fakes on multiple occasions.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Brent!

508:  Brent Called Salamander Letter Fake!

507:  Hofmann’s Motive Against Church

506:  Why 3rd Bomb wasn’t Suicide Attempt

505: McLellin Collection Offers

504: Lucy Mack Smith Forgery

503: Mark’s Unknown Half Million$ Deal

502: Hiding from Hofmann

501: Meeting Serial Killers

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Should LDS Leaders Have Detected the Hofmann Fraud?

Let’s talk about the Mark Hofmann bombings & forgeries.  There are some critics of the LDS Church who ask the question, why weren’t church leaders able to discern, using the spirit of prophecy the Hofmann fraud?

Curt Bench:  I’ve heard that countless times.

GT:  How do respond to that?

Curt:  Well, the way I respond is that we’re all in good company, because we all got fooled.  His family got fooled, his own wife and his parents, his friends and neighbors, other family, experts that tested his materials.  He fooled everyone, including General Authorities.  So I guess I’m prone to grant them, or give them a lot of slack because they’re human just like we are.  As Dallin Oaks said later, unless we’re given a reason not to trust, we trust people.

Others note that it seems like Church bought anti-Mormon material, or material unflattering to the church’s narrative in order to hide them from the public and prevent discovery of them.  Is that a fair characterization?

Curt:  I mean that bothered people I think when that came to light.  From President Hinckley’s perspective if I were in his shoes I would understand better the motivation I think but like I said, everything is 20/20 now in our vision.  But I can understand why that would be a difficult thing for people because it does give people the impression of trying to hide things and put things in the best light possible so I can certainly understand that perspective.

Curt Bench goes into further detail on these questions.  We’ll also talk about how Mark’s family reacted, as well as the family of Steve Christensen, (Steve was killed in the first bombing.)  Check out our conversation…  (Don’t forget to check out (parts 1, 2, 34, and 5!)

Should LDS Leaders Have Detected Hofmann?



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Curt Bench’s Role in the Hofmann Bombings Court Case

We’re continuing our conversation about the Hofmann bombings.  This time we’ll talk about the short court case against Mark Hofmann.  It wasn’t much of a case, just a preliminary hearing.  Curt Bench tells us that he was initially skeptical about police reports that Hofmann was the bomber.

Yeah they were convinced but it took a long time to convince me and others that he was guilty.  He was our friend.  He was a guy we had known and done business with for years.  Your friends don’t kill people, and there was no talk then of forgery or nobody knew about the financial schemes or him being a con man or anything like that, so that was all to come.

Curt also tells how he became an unknowing participant in Hofmann’s fraud.

I showed Mark this Book of Common Prayer which was no big deal, but he said, ‘well I’ll give you 50 bucks for it.’  [I thought] I don’t have a customer, I might as well.  Later he said, ‘you know there was some writing in the back of that appears to be Martin Harris’ so I’ll give you a couple thousand dollars for it.’  [This was] after he had already given me $50 for it and that was fine because I didn’t know.  So I thought, ‘gosh that’s really quite fair.’  So what turned out that he’d done…

GT interrupts:  So you didn’t question that Martin Harris was in there.  You just thought you missed that?

Curt:  No, no.  In fact later and during the investigation and in the preliminary hearing I had been asked.  Well let me go back and say, what Mark did, we found out later was he wrote a little poem about returning this book which you’ve borrowed.  I don’t remember the text of it, in ‘Martin Harris’s handwriting.’  Because here you have a known Harris family item, and no examples of Martin Harris’s handwriting extant, and so Mark created Martin Harris’s handwriting which was used to establish the authenticity of the Salamander Letter.

Check out this episode!  You’ll hear Curt Bench will tell us about how he spoke at the Hofmann Bombings preliminary hearing. (Don’t forget to check out (parts 1, 2, 3, and 4!)  Check out our conversation…


Curt Bench’s Role in Hofmann’s Court Case